It is hard to think of a band that works harder than Thou, the prolific doom/sludge metal band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since their inception in 2005, they have released a staggering number of releases, including five studio albums and an absurd number of splits and EPs. These have been released across a wide array of record labels, nearly all of them smaller independent labels, helping to show the band’s insistence on a “do it yourself” aesthetic, never wanting to be tied down by the constraints of an overbearing record label. They have used all of these releases to broadly experiment with the genre of sludge metal, thoroughly straying outside the bounds set by pioneering bands of the genre like Eyehategod. I can think of no band that is able to combine the wretchedly ugly with profound beauty as adeptly as Thou. For a genre largely defined by crushing and slowly churning guitar riffs, something like a shimmering post rock guitar line might seem wildly out of place, but Thou do it with a naturalness that makes you question why you ever would have questioned its inclusion.
With a band with such a large body of work (the band allows you to download all of it freely from their website), it can be intimidating to find a place to first venture into it. And much to your potential disappointment, I am not attempting to offer that here. Rather, I am going to talk about a song that has recently excited me, a track from their 2014 EP, the Sacrifice. The song in particular is called “Eulogy”, and leans more towards Thou’s brutally punishing work.
“Eulogy” starts with a searing bout of guitar feedback, before the song erupts with a seething guitar riff delivered at a galloping pace and vocalist Bryan Funck’s vitriolic rasps. Gradually the guitar riff morphs into something that verges on being catchy at the 1:40 minute mark, though it is no less grimey. Lyrically, the song functions as a eulogy to the loss of idealistic youth, where people ultimately set aside their beliefs and settle on making a life in the society they had railed against:
“Extol a life of compromise
Resigned to quiet submission
Welcome boredom and banal normality
Farewell to joy and laughter and trust
Welcome fear, suspicion, and hatred”
After those defeating lines, the song gives the listener a little breathing room as the roiling guitar riffs fall away. This respite is short lived, as the muddy guitar riffs arise again, as if trying to pull you back into the mire. All the while, Funck is lamenting all those who give in and choose to set aside their principles in exchange for an easier life.
“You have the look of a hollow shell
You have the look of a rotting corpse
Entombed under intolerable weight
In the delusions of wish fulfillment
Escape the standards of youth, find sanctuary
In a cringing half life”
The highlight of the song is when Funck shrieks the final dejected lines of the song:
“It’s called moving on, it’s called growing up
It’s called giving up
Lurking in the shadow, the shadow of your past
Lurking in the blackness of acquiescence
As the song begins with guitar feedback, it ends with a wall of feedback and a wellspring of scathing noise. If you have a fondness of harsh music, this is essential listening.
Or download all of Thou’s music here.